What I Learned in #HourofCode

Monday, December 14, 20158:32 PM

A week ago, I didn’t think I knew anything about code. I could handle HTML and tinker with javascript, but my technology interests have always been in classroom implementation. So for me, #HourofCode is a new experience, and one that I had sort of turned a blind eye towards before. I knew the big idea--introduce students to coding and computer science in a fun and accessible way, but hasn’t been a part of it before. While I recognize that coding could be meaningful in my English classroom, it was never a priority for me, and I simply didn’t think I had the time. 

One of my goals this year is to try new things and step out of my technological comfort zone. I want to learn more about STEM, coding, maker spaces, and everything else in our ever-growing field of edtech, both for me and for my students. So this year, when two of my colleagues in the math department offered to help facilitate lessons, I jumped right in. And it was great. 

Two of my classes learned about coding and practiced with the code.org tutorials, mastering Minecraft, Star Wars, and Frozen themed coding challenges. A third practiced 3D design with Tinkercad, creating caricatures of their favorite literary character. Using a template of a human body silhouette, they learned to add shapes, features, and colors with some basic 3D design. I was amazed at how much they already knew, how much they accomplished so quickly, and how much fun it all was. In one class, I was challenged by students and coded, too, building a galaxy with Star Wars javascript coding

Not only was it fun, but I had some important takeaways from the experience:

What I Learned in #HourofCode

1. Students already know coding.

I was astonished at how many of my students knew how to build javascript codes and master these coding challenges. Many had some experience with Minecraft or other coding, and those that didn’t jumped right in. Code.org did a great job scaffolding for all students.

2. Coding is a Gateway to #FutureReady

My colleague, Mr. Goldberg, shared surprising facts about coding and computer science with us, and I explored further at code.org. I found the graphic below along with this statistic: there will be one billion computing job openings by 2022---around double the jobs available right now. We often talk about what it means to make out students #futureready, about the types of jobs they will have that don’t yet exists, and about the classrooms of tomorrow. I didn’t realize how much of an opportunity #HourofCode was to help prepare students or interest them in one possible future.

3. Coding is Fun!

I’ve always enjoyed codes, math, HTML, and logic. But I was amazed at how much fun all of #HourofCode exercises we explored were. Many reminded me of the old-school Mario games of my childhood, where you move the character in four directions to achieve a task, only now you are writing or dragging and dropping blocks of code to make that direction come to life. In so many ways it was like building a video game--a connection I hadn’t made before. The students seemed to really enjoy it, and although I loved watching them explore, I had even more fun playing and coding myself.

4. Coding is for Everyone

From the geeks who shall inherit the world to NBA stars or from high school seniors to elementary students, anyone can code. I was so impressed by the variety of activities I found on code.org, the ages they appealed to, and the creativity I saw from my PLN online. Below is a video and Tweet from a colleague at the middle school, and it was great to see #HourofCode embraced throughout my district, and to experience it as shared learning throughout the year.

Looking Forward

This day really opened my eyes; I can see such great applications for my students just in the few activities we explored: Storyboarding in Tinkercad. Depicting characters from textual evidence. Convey elements of plot by building a Star Wars universe. Exploring shapes through the Frozen ice skating challenge. These fun, easy, and intuitive exercises could have big gains in teaching students #futureready skills and in bringing a different side of technology into my classroom.

I had a blast with the #HourofCode and would love to hear how you implemented it into your schools or classrooms.

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